There's a big showdown happening in the world of affordable graphics cards this week. AMD and Nvidia are releasing the latest editions in their £100 / $150 range, an important battleground, given that cards at that range easily outsell their flashy flagship $1000 tech. AMD are bringing some rebranded and boosted versions of their last-gen GPUs to compete with Nvidia's GTX 750Ti and GTX 750, which will give us our first look at their new Maxwell GPU architecture.
Look. It’s new. Like actually new, not just old but with a new sticker. Not necessarily new technology, but y’know, a genuine new configuration. Yup, the AMD Radeon R9 290X is the first actually new graphics card they have released in an absolute age. Sure, we’ve seen the R9 280X (actually a HD 7970 GHz), the R9 270X (actually a HD 7870) and the R7 260X (actually a HD 7790), but this is a card with a bona fide new GPU.
The Radeon R9 290X is AMD’s latest flagship graphics card aimed squarely at taking on the top-end of Nvidia’s rivalling graphics lineup. And the scary thing? It manages it.
AMD are in a strong position right now, thanks to the presence of their GPUs in both of the 'next-gen' consoles. Yesterday, they revealed the next step in 'Operation: Make All The Graphics', which I assume is their codename for the global graphical domination they're so clearly chasing. It's called Mantle, and its a new low-level API that gives developers direct access to GPUs using AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture.
Before Nvidia launched the GTX Titan wündercard, AMD held a bullish press briefing to bang the Radeon drum, claiming “performance leadership at every pricepoint”. Not only that, but they were also promising additional silicon in the first half of this year with a new range of products coming around by the end of 2013.
We’re now hearing rumours from varioussources about what exactly that new silicon is going to be, and it’s apparently called the Bonnaire XT and will be our first taste of AMD’s Graphics Core Next (GCN) 2.0 architecture.
AMD has shown reluctance to release their own-brand HD 7000 range dual-GPU card, leaving affiliate manufacturers like Asus, Club3D and HIS to cobble together their own polygon-crunching beasts. As a result, we’ve seen a fair number of super-powered graphics cards over the last few months, including the freakishly potent Club3D Radeon HD 7990s - but with the unveiling of the Asus ARES II, things may just be getting a little silly.
AMD's last processor launch, the FX chip, turned out to be a bit of a damp squib for desktops. But the company is hoping that the CPU architecture behind it will be more of a success on laptops. Today it's launching an updated version of its hybrid GPU/CPU A-series processor, codenamed Trinity, which uses a revamped Bulldozer core to offer twice the performance per watt of its predecessor, Llano. Or that's what AMD says, anyway.
Further claims include the ability to build thinner laptops with longer battery life than their Intel equivalents, and that the integrated Northern Isles GPU has three times the graphics performance of the Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU in Sandy Bridge. Trinity's launch was accompanied by a bold claim by the firm's Sasa Marinkovic:
“I don't want you too see Trinity as competing against Ivy Bridge, I want you to see how we're leading.”
Even I've been forced to admit that PC hardware has seemed pretty dull lately. While there's been no shortage of new launches, there's been no must buy upgrade. That might have changed today with the launch of AMD's Radeon HD7850 and HD7870 graphics cards.
Based on 'Pitcairn' revisions of the Southern Islands processor design, the HD7800s are slightly cut down versions of the hugely powerful but hugely expensive 7900s, with the same Graphics Core Next (GCN) tech at their heart. They're fast, futureproof and with prices for both cards around the £200/$300 mark, they're also relatively affordable.
Yesterday we mentioned that Rage players have been experiencing severe texture lag and framerate problems. In a post on the Bethblog, Bethesda says that "these problems can be attributed to driver issues" adding that they're "currently working with Nvidia and AMD to resolve them as quickly as possible."
AMD has taken the wraps off of its latest graphics chip for notebooks, the Radeon HD6990M. The Barts-based GPU is its most powerful mobile graphics processor currently available from AMD's line, and will be available in the Alienware M18x and other manufacturers from today.
The AMD announcement comes not long after NVIDIA's launch of the GeForce GTX 580M a couple of weeks ago, and while we haven't seen samples of either in the office yet, it should be a close run battle as to which is better.